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Surviving cancer-the will to live

by Ariti Jankie South Bureau

Saturday, April 15th 2006

It is one of the deadliest of diseases and not so long ago chances of surviving it were practically nil.

New medical discoveries however have improved the chances of increasing the survival rate in terms of years or completely beating the big C, which in Trinidad has been on the increase in recent years, with cancer of the prostate being one of the biggest killers among men.The other cancers hitting Trinidadians in a big way are those of the breast, colon and lung.

More and more people though are becoming aware of the treatments that are available and are making use of them.

David Affonso, chief executive officer of the Cancer Society, said an increasing number of people are being screened and tested by the society on a daily basis.

The Society operates an in-house clinic five days a week. It operates two mobile units on weekdays. Test such as Pap smears, mammogram and prostate are conducted during the mobile visits to rural districts.

Affonso said, "There has been an increasing awareness of cancer and every attempt has been made to provide information on what is available to patients with early detection of cancer."

"Cancer by its very nature is a deadly disease. It is a killer. The only way to treat cancer is to be screened and tested so that the disease can be treated," he said.

Affonso said that through screening and testing, abnormal cells will be detected. He said that the abnormal cell develops into cancer which can be treated successfully in its early stages.

Most forms of cancer, he said, can be treated if detected early.

Dr Lester Goetz, Head of Urology Department at the San Fernando General Hospital said that since the new urology theatre was opened in 2004, the department has been able to increase prostate operations by 150 per cent.

He said that during the period November 2004 to October 2005 there were 1,083 operations for prostate cancer. During the same period in the previous year, before the theatre was opened, there were 437 such operations.

Goetz said that prostate cancer has been the most common cancer with 1,839 cases during the period January to December of 2004. It accounted for 21 per cent of all cancers treated at the hospital. Breast cancer followed with 1,362 or 15 per cent of cancer cases with cancer of the colon following with 874 or ten per cent, cancer of the cervix-564 or six per cent which was close to lung cancer with 554 cases. Cancer of the uterus or womb numbered 399 while cancer of the stomach accounted for 281 patients.

He said that lung cancer caused more deaths.

Goetz pointed out that Trinidad 's situation was similar to the US where prostate cancer was number one in the cancer group.

"Prostate cancer can spread to the bone and a bone scan is necessary. However, this facility is not available to the public and a bone scan costs $1,200 which a lot of patients cannot afford," he said.

Goetz said that there was a need to make this facility available He also pointed out that in the treatment of cancer biopsies were needed and each biopsy takes from three to six months.

"In the meantime the cancer grows and very often it is too late to operate," he said.

Veronica Roach, Registrar at the Cancer Registry and Facilitator of Reach for Recovery Support Group for cancer patients said that over the past five years there has been a marked increase in the number of females suffering with breast cancer.

"Women are prone to breast, cervix, colon and rectum and uterus and ovary cancer while men are plagued with prostate, colon and rectum, bronchus, stomach/lung and pancreas cancer," she said.

She noted that reports have shown that cancer of the pancreas was fifth in males and sixth among females.

Surviving cancer she said, required a fighting spirit and personality with a bravery to know your disease.

"Cancer victims must possess the will to live,"Roach said.

Following are the stories of three people who did just that:.

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